Arment Dietrich

Crisis Communications: How Chick-fil-A Weathered the Storm

By: Arment Dietrich | December 19, 2013 | 
106

Crisis Communications- How Chick-fil-A Weathered the StormBy Clay Morgan

When it comes to crisis communications, there is nothing better than being prepared.

Despite it’s recent bad publicity, Chick-fil-A may have proven itself to be one of the most prepared companies out there.

In the summer of 2012, Dan Cathy, CEO of the fast-food chicken restaurant chain, expressed his support of the biblical definition of marriage (and opposition to gay marriage) on a conservative radio talk show and in a religious publication.

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, Cathy tweeted his disappointment in the high court’s ruling.

Gay rights groups also pointed out the company financially supported organizations that stood against gay marriage. Protests were organized and the onslaught began.

The Enduring Company

There were efforts, a couple of them successful, to remove Chick-fil-A from college campuses. There were protests, rallies, and picketers. Social media exploded in an unrelenting attack on the restaurant chain.

But here’s the thing: In the midst of it all, the restaurant chain grew.

QSR Magazine, a trade publication serving the fast food industry, announced in its August 2013 edition that in 2012, Chick-fil-A rose to the number nine spot in revenue among fast food restaurants.

It surpassed KFC (with only one-third the number of locations) to become the best-selling chicken restaurant in the country, finishing at $4.62 billion in total revenue, an increase from the previous year’s $4.1 billion.

As a Christian-based company, they are closed on Sundays. Still, the average Chick-fil-A restaurant had greater sales in six days than most McDonald’s restaurants had in seven days during 2012.

It makes you wonder if there was a crisis…or if the crisis communications team just managed it expertly.

The Basics

One of the key things about Chick-fil-A is their reputation, one I think is demonstrated by my own personal experiences.

I like the food. When I was working at the newspaper, I’d visit the restaurant a couple times a week. The food quality is consistent, no matter which location you visit.

But there’s something else. Their customer service, in my opinion, far exceeds any other fast food restaurant. They greet you warmly. They thank you for your order and the ‘thanks!’ sounds genuine. And then there are two other simple words. In a video interview, Dan Cathy told the interviewer there is a 87 percent chance that if you say “thank you” to an associate, the response will be “my pleasure.” There’s something special about those words.

The restaurants overall are clean and the tables have fresh flowers. The staff checks on you – It is almost like being at a high-end restaurant. When I visit a Chick-fil-A, I feel like the staff wants to serve me and wants me to have a pleasant experience. I can’t always say that for other more popular fast-food restaurants.

Other Activists

When Cathy made his controversial marriage statements, gay-rights activists planned boycotts. Students voted to remove Chick-fil-A from campuses. But they weren’t the only ones who entered the fray.

Brand supporters, including conservatives and Christian groups, organized an appreciation day. According to ABC News, as many as 605,000 people may have participated in the appreciation day. Estimates are that the average restaurant experienced a 29 percent increase in same-day sales.

Their supporters were vocal. Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and others spoke out in support of the chain during the controversy. Even the American Civil Liberties Union and Mike Bloomberg, while not endorsing Cathy’s comments, did defend his right to say them.

Crisis Communications: What Can We Learn?

The Chick-fil-A crisis communications plan started long before the controversy ever erupted and didn’t look like a plan most of us would develop.

Here is what we can learn:

  1. Have company values. Chick-fil-A has a strong set of company values that range from traditional faith to firm ideas about customer service. Not everyone agrees with them, but a lot of people strongly identify with them, which increases their loyalty to the brand.
  2. Give your clients and customers a tremendous experience. This is customer service at its core. As a Chick-fil-A customer, they exceed my expectations every, single time I go in to the restaurant. It is ingrained into the very culture of the company and should be in yours too. Customers treated exceptionally well are far more likely to weather a storm with you.
  3. Cultivate brand ambassadors with influencers. As soon as the controversy erupted, conservative leaders such as Mike Huckabee, Ann Coulter, Rick Santorum, and Sarah Palin rushed to the company’s defense. Regardless of politics, they have a lot of influence over very large populations, and they had a lot to do with the hugely successful appreciation day.

Engage

A little talk can go a long way. Cathy engaged his accusers. He made some changes in the company’s giving, but he also talked to those who had a problem with his statements.

In particular, ABC News reported the CEO and Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, engaged in conversations at the height of the controversy. Windmeyer expressed that the two have become friends, despite their opposing views on gay marriage.

They may not be changing each other’s minds, but they seem, based on comments in the article, to understand one another.

While the company did engage a crisis communications plan in the traditional sense, it was what they did before, as part of their basic culture, that made the difference when the chicken coop got kicked.

Spin Sucks in Your Inbox

106 responses to “Crisis Communications: How Chick-fil-A Weathered the Storm”

  1. ginidietrich says:

    When I was reading your post earlier this week and felt my face getting hot. I realized it wasn’t because of the fact that communications crisis didn’t hurt their sales, it’s because I don’t agree with their politics.

    So I took a step back and thought, “This is about communications, Gini.” 

    Of course, I want companies to fail when they have big crises like this…it helps prove our case that every company needs a plan and to be prepared in times of criticism.

    BUT, they did have a plan. They followed their values. They didn’t stray from their message. They did exactly what we would have advised they do…even if we don’t agree with their politics.

  2. belllindsay says:

    Way to steal what I was gonna say, Gini!! LOL I loved this post – precisely because Clay took what was (is) for many a VERY uncomfortable political stance, turned it around, and highlighted the positive practices that CFA did in order to weather their particular storm. I don’t agree with their politics either, but I was very surprised to read about their sales, etc., and how their community supported them. It might not be my kinda community, but they still did what “community” is supposed to do – and heck, let’s face it, the world would be pretty boring if we all were the same

  3. ClayMorgan says:

    ginidietrich As I told my wife, and perhaps you, the very way they do business (and you can argue that perhaps it is because of the owning family’s values, or not?) is their crisis plan.

  4. ClayMorgan says:

    belllindsay It was interesting to watch the thing unfold.

    At the paper, the “support day” rally was insane. Cars were lined up out the parking lot and down the street. This is a company that has developed tremendous customer loyalty.

    Any bets A&E takes a hit for suspending Phil from Duck Dynasty yesterday?

  5. ginidietrich says:

    belllindsay Early bird gets the worm!

  6. ginidietrich says:

    ClayMorgan Yep. I may not agree with it, but they have a loyal following who do.

  7. belllindsay says:

    ClayMorgan I’ve already seen lots of negative comments, etc., regarding his “suspension”, but from what I heard, his comments were beyond derogatory. I really can’t see any other way that the network could have handles it.

  8. Second verse, same as the first: 

    The politics of the organization certainly doesn’t align with my own, but the way they handled the crisis was certainly something to behold. We were on vacation with Lisa’s family during the Support Day rallies.  Every Chik-Fil-A restaurant in the region had lines wrapping around the block building and out into the street for miles (this was a fairly conservative part of Western NC, so the values overlapped significantly). 

    And speaking as a consumer first and a communications professional second, I *want* companies and their leaders to openly express their values on things. It makes it that much easier for each of us to vote with our wallets if the values of the company in question don’t align with our own. 

    As for Phil Robinson, the suspension issued by A&E is about preserving a red-hot brand, not necessarily about “doing what is right.” Duck Dynasty merchandise is *everywhere* and a cancelled show would unravel all of that.

  9. ClayMorgan says:

    jasonkonopinski Where does one draw the line in corporations taking a stand? And does one separate the beliefs of the CEO and the corporate values?

    As for A&E, I believe they are trying to weather a storm as they are stuck between their top show with a loyal following and a second but no less important demographic.

    They are the number one cable network (or were in the Spring) with 90 million viewers, 10 percent of which watch Duck Dynasty.

    I’m personally not a big A&E viewer, but I do occasionally watch Duck Dynasty and my wife and I love to watch Longmire.

    They have a tight rope to walk. Christian groups are reacting just as hard as gay-rights groups. Phil can take the Duck Dynasty group to quite a large number of networks if he so desires. 

    A&E knows where their bread is buttered and I bet Phil is back on the air – quietly and with no fanfare – in a couple weeks.

  10. It’s funny I told ginidietrichthat this stuff never hurts anyone. All the big social media hoopla-la’s and gaffes and in the end business is fine. Just put your head in the sand.

    But I am told a book is coming out to prove me wrong LOL

    As for Chick-fil-A I actually stopped patronizing in 1993 when I worked as a waiter near a mall in LA. I saw the food court location would be closed on Sundays and when I learned they did it for religious reasons being in my early 20’s ‘why would anyone pick religion over capitalism’ stage boycotted their waffles fries until this day LOL. 

    BUT if you look at the In-Out Burger which I patronized til I moved even with an equally devout private owner who put verse on the wrappers and soda cups…..working there is a career and you get healthcare. Managers make 6 figures. Lowest employee turnover in fast food.

    And to be honest if that had been the emerging story (which it wasn’t) they could of won me back (which they didn’t). Opportunity lost by this.

  11. ClayMorganjasonkonopinskireally good questions Clay. I think public companies have to be impartial. The CEO isn’t the Owner. And in all cases best to stay quiet on social issues and often business issues.

    I started attacking Holly Hobby on Twitter after they had a problem with women getting contraception coverage through their insurance. Personally I am against cancer treatment because of my religion so can I offer insurance that omits that?

    So best I don’t know because I do vote with my money.

    That said we all spend tons of money at places that we are clueless what their position is. Happens all the time to me. “oh you won’t shop in Walmart but your family has Apple products made by almost forced labor in China’ …you won’t fill up at BP because of the gulf accident yet you fill up at Exxon and they destroyed part of Alaska.

    Goes to my memory is short comment above. All memory is short. Just a matter how short. And some exceptions will be longer shorters than others.

  12. ClayMorgan That’s a tricky question to answer, but a very important one. 

    When it comes to family-owned companies like Chik-Fil-A, it’s a little easier. But then there’s CEOs like Howard Schultz of Starbucks who plays the role of the political activist often, and it doesn’t appear that the board and shareholders object to his stance on gun control, marriage equality, and a host of other issues.  

    At some point, it becomes a slippery slope. There isn’t a company in the world that *exactly* mirrors my political views, and I’m also not so bold to think that I’m not influenced heavily by convenience. There’s a human cost associated with Amazon’s massive fulfillment centers, but darn it, Prime has completely changed my life.

  13. ClayMorgan says:

    Howie Goldfarb jasonkonopinski I too vote with my money and when the values are known to me, I do try to support companies that share my values – AS LONG as the quality product is there.

  14. ClayMorgan says:

    jasonkonopinski Yea, that Polynesian sauce is pretty good.

  15. ClayMorgan That’s all you have to say? Harumph. 😉

  16. ClayMorgan says:

    jasonkonopinski LOL. What do you want me to say?

    I don’t go to Starbucks, not because of their owners views, but because they sell way overpriced flavored water.

    But when a company is family-owned, I think you can expect the family values to be far more infused in the corporate psyche.

  17. jasonkonopinski I learned this morning that Duck Dynasty is not at ALL what I thought it was about. I expected cute animated ducks and instead it’s ZZ Top?

  18. It seems a big part of this is a company’s initial popularity. Chick-fil-A is widely lauded for its food by country folk and urban hipsters alike. And I think the number of people who boycott a company over its political views is a small sliver of the population.
    I recall the Dominos boycotts from ages ago—they seem to be doing fine. (And I’m one of those people who has a long list of companies I won’t do business with for various reasons.)
    I believe the Coors boycott hurt them some, but I think only around the margins. Barilla pasta? Papa John’s? Etc.

  19. SpinSucks says:

    MartinaPQuinn I thought it was good, too. Makes you think. ^gd

  20. MartinaPQuinn says:

    SpinSucks For sure! Thanks for sharing it!

  21. RobBiesenbach Ha! That family is worth a pile of cash from the duck call business. 😀

  22. Hi Clay,

    I cannot stand companies that broadcast their religious affiliations. Business and religion should be as separate as church and state I don’t want to know what your religious belief are. I just want to purchase a good product or service from you…if I choose to.

    Their “franchise” is not a franchise. 

    They “award” franchises to people that will commit to following Christian values. Period. And, their franchises only cost $5,000. That’s why they receive over 50,000 applications a year.

    “Franchisees” are not allowed to own any other businesses and cannot pass down or transfer rights to other family members when they’re ready to retire.

    And…this is really important, “franchisees” have no equity in their businesses. They get a salary based on sales. It’s true that franchisees can potentially make good money, but they’re basically employees. They can’t sell their locations…because they’re not their locations to sell. Cathy owns it all.

    So they close on Sundays. Big freaking deal.  

    They do have a good product, although because of their view on things (from the 1880’s) and the fact that they discriminate against those who aren’t Christian–they won’t award franchises to anyone who won’t commit to doing faith-based stuff on Sundays in a Christian way, I’ll never again give them any of my money. 

    Another company on the wrong side of history. 

    The Franchise King®

    http://www.thefranchiseking.com/chick-fil-a-franchise

  23. jasonkonopinski As is ZZ Top, my friend!

  24. Word Ninja says:

    Clay, you did an amazing job of writing this post. And I appreciate also that those here, whether they agree or disagree with Cathy’s comments or anything else, answer honestly, civilly, and with a focus on the point of the article. 

    Btw, talk about some customer service…I heard when the Chick-fil-A in my city ran out of food during the “appreciation day” you mentioned, they ordered pizza for the hundreds of people gathered there.

  25. I count a half-dozen “I thinks” and “I believes” in this post of mine. Clearly I have no data, but that doesn’t mean I’m not right!

  26. ClayMorgan says:

    RobBiesenbach Many companies can survive them, if they have strong leadership, good products, good service and excellent crisis plans. If we look, we can probably find plenty of bodies too.

  27. ClayMorgan says:

    FranchiseKing This is what makes America great.

    If given a choice between two companies that are pretty much equal in quality, I will try to support the company that has Christian values.

  28. ClayMorgan says:

    Word Ninja Customer service is one thing they do well. If you walk in the door their staff, in my experience, does try to take care of you.

    They aren’t the only chain like that of course, but I think it helped them throughout he crisis.

  29. Rieva says:

    Sorry, I’m withHowie Goldfarb and FranchiseKing King. They didn’t weather the storm because of their communications plan. They weathered it because there’s still a sizable number of Americans who share their bigoted views. 

    There are 3 Chick-fil-A’s within 5 miles of my house. We used to drive thru once a week at least  (I’m not a GiniDietrich-level cook). Haven’t been since the controversy originally broke out. 

    And values are apparently in the eye of the beholder. Their actions might reflect their values and yours ClayMorgan, but they sure don’t reflect mine.

  30. ClayMorgan says:

    Rieva HowieGoldfarb FranchiseKing ClayMorgan 

    As I mentioned to FranchiseKing, we are all entitled to support whom we want and for whatever reasons we wish. The opposite is true as well.

  31. Rieva says:

    ClayMorgan Rieva HowieGoldfarb FranchiseKing This isn’t the place to debate that.

  32. Matt_Cerms says:

    Don’t waver from what you stand for, make a dynamite product, and continue to make the customer feel like a rock star. Boom.

  33. Carol Cool says:

    One other step they took, in some areas, was on the protest/boycott day, which I believe was the following Saturday, the managers served free lemonade to the protesters outside, and some even gave them free chicken sandwiches. That is a great crisis communication move if you look at all the press they got for it. (And falls right in with their Christian values from the sermon on the mount: “do good to those who hate you.”)

  34. Howie Goldfarb In-N-Out killed me with the religious verse on the wrappers and soda, but I kept eating there for a long time because i loved the food and it was affordable.

  35. ClayMorgan says:

    Matt_Cerms It is a good strategy and has worked for a lot of companies.

  36. ClayMorgan says:

    Carol Cool I did not know that.

    Is that a classy move or an “in your face move” or a little of both?

  37. belllindsay says:

    Coming from the land of Pierre Trudeau’s 1967 (!!) Omnibus Bill and his famous quote: “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” – I find it difficult to believe we’re still having this conversation. But, that said, if you believe in the “right” for YOU to hold certain beliefs and have certain freedoms, you have to also believe in the right for OTHERS to have their own beliefs. You also have the right to disagree, and choose to protest with your wallet. 

    Sure, some people’s viewpoints can make me angry, or make me shake my head at what *I* perceive to be their ignorance – but this post was written about a company who weathered a storm, and came out the other side fairly OK. Whatever their ‘franchise’ policies are or are not. 

    And the take-away provided in this post can be applied to any company or organization – left-wing, right-wing, or otherwise. Haven’t we ALL learned, at one time or another, from the actions of others? Whether you deem then good, bad or ugly? 

    Let’s keep personal politics out of it if we can. The piece wasn’t written to be inflammatory, nor was it written with personal politics in mind. I would hope your comments moving forward will reflect that.

  38. Rieva HowieGoldfarb FranchiseKing ClayMorgan Again, I think they survived it because they have a popular, tasty product. The “bigot” demo is not a mass-market audience.
    Just the other day I was downtown (Chicago) and the Chick-fil-A just off Michigan Avenue was packed tight with all sorts of folks. Most people just aren’t that political. Even if they’re aware of the controversy they’re not going to change their habits significantly.

  39. ClayMorgan That’s the thing: I’ve been racking my brain and can’t think of any companies that were truly done in by a CEO either shooting off his mouth or a company deliberately engaging in controversial political activity
    Many companies have taken a PR hit and maybe a short-term sales hit—Barilla, Lululemon, Hobby Lobby, Dominos, Coors, etc. But long-damage?

  40. Danny Brown says:

    I think a large part comes down to the religious beliefs of companies involved. It’s no coincidence that both Chick-fil-A and the Duck Dynasty guy made statements based on their religious beliefs.
    Now, whether you agree with these statements or not, you have to respect the right that if you demand retractions, boycotts, etc., you are demanding that person retract the religious belief(s) they’ve grown up with.
    Didn’t Kuwait get invaded to protect religious belief? Didn’t Europe stand up to Hitler to defend religious belief? Didn’t Gandhi take a non-violent stand to defend religious belief (and free a nation at the same time)?
    I don’t agree with either point of views of Cathay and the Duck Dynasty guy. BUT… I do believe they’re coming from a point of their honest views based on their religion. And if we want to truly be a better world, we need to accept religious beliefs are not unanimous on topics of agreement.
    And I’m not even religious. 🙂

  41. Danny Brown Not to get too off track, but the Duck Dynasty guy was saying some truly repulsive stuff that goes beyond religious beliefs. Like that black people were better off and happier under slavery.

  42. MikeSchaffer says:

    What happened to the days where if somebody said something we didn’t like, we muttered under our breath, “what an a-hole?” and went about our day?

  43. stevesonn says:

    Thanks for this interesting post ClayMorgan. It’s important to note the type of crisis it was: one of a viewpoint. A crisis surrounding a brand’s products or services is often much more threatening. Even among Chick-fil-A’s detractors, there is general agreement that they have a great product and great service. The brand has done a good job of focusing on what it does best, and getting the word out about it.

  44. susancellura says:

    I like this post ClayMorgan. The point of it is to have a crisis communication plan in place. And then, ensure people know it backwards and forwards. And then, practice it before an issue actually arises. We used to do that at a chemical company I worked for back in the day, for obvious reasons.

  45. Danny Brown says:

    RobBiesenbach I haven’t read/watched the interview, so not aware of the full comments he made. And yes, that’s repulsive no matter your religious belief (though I’d say that’s down to his assumed racism versus religious beliefs).
    I used his statement regarding homosexuality as it was tied into the points Clay uses for Cathay and his company. There are a lot of religious folks in the U.S., and they don’t let that religion take a side stand to anything.
    I was reading through a Facebook discussion last night about the Duck Dynasty guy, and the overriding majority were in his favour, saying stuff like “God is just”, “Don’t go against the wishes of God”, “He is just repeating God’s words”, etc, etc. Some of the comments, I wanted to shout through the screen, “Are you a f***ing idiot?!?” Sadly, ignorance, religion and bigotry often go hand-in-hand, it would seem.
    All that aside, I don’t think this was ever truly a crisis. Chick-fil-A has very clear religious views (or Cathay does) – right or wrong, they connected with a huge customer base that stood up for those views by eating more at the outlets.
    When you have a religious backdrop to a perceived crisis, more often than not the faith will overcome the faux pas (or whatever the crisis is deemed). And that’s not going to change anytime soon.

  46. biggreenpen says:

    Interesting perspective, Clay. I am intentionally not reading everyone else’s comments because I want to say what I think first (but I am looking forward to seeing everyone else’s thoughts afterwards). I also, just an hour ago, read the Shane Windmeyer-related piece, which I found interesting. After all of the furor around Cathy’s comments a while back, I have been a much less frequent CFA visitor. I do find their customer service downright incredible and that’s surely in short supply these days. I’ve developed reservations about their ingredients (I’ll spare everyone the long list but the “anti foaming agents” for example) that have led me to have less of an appetite for CFA.  I re-read what I wrote in July 2012 (was that only a year and a half ago?) and decided I still feel pretty much the same way. I was, however, heartened by the way that Cathy & Windmeyer apparently were able to have a civil discourse even though they both disagree on so many fundamentals. (And you’re right — specifics of the “crisis” aside, having a plan trumps not having one every single time.) Here’s my post: http://biggreenpen.com/2012/07/30/when-a-check-in-says-more-than-i-was-here/

  47. Danny BrownI mentioned voting with my wallet. I can handle Chick-fil-A more so than the businesses choosing and deciding type of healthcare they get through them. Chick-fil-A has gay workers. And to my knowledge never told workers in states with gay marriage that they can’t marry.

    So I agree Danny I don’t object to their right and freedom to their own views and religion even if I don’t agree with them.

    What I am curious about was if the political donations were personal or from the company.

  48. belllindsay says:

    Danny Brown RobBiesenbach Are you writing another book, Danny….? (jokes – great comments)

  49. ClayMorgan says:

    Danny Brown Great points on respecting other views.

    The simple fact for Chick-fil-A and probably for Duck Dynasty, is the two brands have something very strong happening and they (or that) is much more than the religious beliefs of their leadership.

  50. Rieva says:

    RobBiesenbach Danny Brown That’s not off track. That is exactly the track. We can couch a lot of prejudice and bigotry by citing religious beliefs. But I thought one FUNDAMENTAL part of those beliefs  was “judge not lest ye be judged.”

  51. Danny Brown says:

    belllindsay RobBiesenbach You never know, Lindsay. You never know… 😉

  52. Danny Brown says:

    Rieva RobBiesenbach Right. And they’re both being judged (or have been, in Cathay’s case). And it seems that judgement, whether we agree with it or not, is his business thrived because of it.

  53. ClayMorgan says:

    biggreenpen Thanks for sharing. 

    The issues try to evoke emotion, so when I wrote the piece, I decided “the heck with the reasons behind the crisis, why did the company grow.”

    Ingredients are huge issues with any fast food establishment (and I think will be a significantly growing issue) and I think a serious issue with those will bring a restaurant chain down faster than the CEO’s opinion on social issues.

  54. belllindsay says:

    Danny Brown Rieva RobBiesenbach Yup, “Judge not…yadda yadda” swings both ways. (HA!)

  55. biggreenpen says:

    ClayMorgan I think it made for a better analysis to separate out issues from the growth trajectory and I commend you for that. And I agree on the ingredients …. so many of us consumers are becoming better informed. And to CFA’s credit the ingredients that I am leery of are clearly listed on their website so at least I can do my research and make a sound decision.

  56. SueOtten says:

    toddlohenry CFA does a ton of things right!

  57. ClayMorganMatt_Cermsinteresting because what if every Chick-fil-A customer agreed with them. The ones who didn’t agree never were customers. What if?
    I think to your point Matt a Brand should stand for what it does. So say making the best chicken sandwich in the world is what we stand for. Don’t muddle it with everything else. 

    Walmart stands for Government Subsidies, Handouts, Poor Low Wage No Healthcare Jobs, Paying Women less, Sourcing Goods made by similar low wage indentured workers. 

    Target stands for Tar-jae…the cool place to spend $100 each visit even if you just went for batteries. 

    Target was part of ALEC (they quit) and they did come out for gay marriage but in general is is many of the same stuff as walmart just a bit nicer store, service, etc. Workers aren’t paid that much more. Yet Walmart muddled my views with too much stuff that wasn’t about ‘everyday low prices’.

  58. RievaClayMorganHowieGoldfarbFranchiseKingOMGhave you tried ginidietrich’s take on Manwich yet?!!!! I was told it is like heaven on earth and then some.

  59. 3HatsComm says:

    RobBiesenbach Rieva HowieGoldfarb FranchiseKing ClayMorgan  I think that’s it – it all comes down to how devout we are in our beliefs. It’s not that we don’t like X or really, really don’t support Y or that we SAY we do  — it’s how strongly we do in so much as we ACT and change our behaviors. And when it comes to our likes and dislikes, what’s convenient or cheap or easy or our personal wants and needs, those beliefs often take a back seat when voting w/ wallet or stock portfolio or car full of hungry kids.

    I’m in Atlanta, CFA backyard. Can’t think of a single person I know that stopped going or even voiced any opinion as to the religious/political ‘crisis.’ Yes CFA has its following and yes they did certain things well from a comms standpoint. But I don’t think nearly as many people kept going to CFA to ‘vote by wallet’ in support of the company or its political/religious views. IMO they kept going b/c they like CFA sandwiches, lemonade, and service. FWIW.

  60. 3HatsComm@RobBiesenbachRievaHowieGoldfarbFranchiseKingClayMorganI still say short memory. And yes they have a good product. and good advertising. I didn’t expect them to go under. I also felt the big uproar was more about ‘now we know’ . Once ‘We know’ you then are at the mercy of the customer base.

    For example when Ted Haggard one of the biggest Family Values Preachers with the MegaChurch and the weekly call to Bush to push anti-gay agenda was caught having gay sex with make prostitutes while high on speed….he had to step down. The customers demanded it. 

    In this case the customers really just demanded chicken.

  61. 3HatsComm says:

    Howie Goldfarb Short memory, ITA and it’s a big part of this crisis discussion. I’ve written (and writing again) about brands being ‘marketing proof’ and part of that is being ‘crisis proof’ to the point that they may take a hit, but no they won’t go under. BP is still here. Once upon a time people drove past Exxon and perhaps even dumped the stock, yet look at them today. People need gas and oil, they want strong investments that make money and yes, some of them like chicken.

  62. belllindsay Danny Brown Rieva Apparently I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to this either (not that that stopped me from having an opinion!). Turns out he was not hearkening back to the good ol’ days of slavery, but the good ol’ days of pre-Civil Rights era Jim Crow. So he’s just a lil’ racist …

  63. belllindsay Yeah, but you gotta admit Doonesbury was awesome. Wait, who are you talking about??

  64. Chrisa_Hickey says:

    MikeSchaffer there’s being an a-hole, and then there’s actively working to violate someone’s right to equal protection under the Constitution.  Cathy’s words and Chik-Fil-A’s investment in anti-gay marriage groups is the latter.  I’m happy to say I have never set foot in another Chik-Fil-A since that day, and never will.

  65. belllindsay says:

    RobBiesenbach belllindsay Danny Brown Rieva Like ‘a little pregnant’..? 😉

  66. belllindsay says:

    RobBiesenbach Don’t you DARE mock Trudeau!

  67. CommProSuzi says:

    And they have a college saving plan for their high school aged employees. In-N-Out was /is quite the company. (Though the family is less and less involved as members have passed away.)

  68. RobBiesenbach 

    Many people operate off of a “if it doesn’t hurt me, I don’t have to do anything” mentality.

    I hadn’t been to a Chick-fil-A until this last year. But living in Texas placed a number of stores right near my home and office so I decided to check it out.

    I don’t agree with their values but I wanted to see what people were talking about with the food and customer service so I made a special visit.

    The sandwich was ok, nothing special to me but not horrible. But I did notice that it was immaculate inside and the employees were friendly and helpful.

    That is a good combination and if you operate off of a “if it doesn’t hurt me, I don’t have to do anything” mentality it makes it easy for some people to patronize them.

    It is a useful case study. I am curious to see how A&E handles the Duck Dynasty fall out too.

  69. CommProSuzi says:

    Did having John3:16 printed on the bottom inside rim of the soda cup affect the taste of the soda? My guess is no. Did you get a great product? Outstanding service? It’s like saying “I’m not going to stay at a Marriott with its consistent great service, clean beds, and sweet rewards program because they have a Gideon Bible AND a Book of Mormon in the bedside table.” I’m over being offended for being offended’s sake for people who are capable for sticking up for themselves. I’d rather just look at someone with an outlying view point and say, “huh. That’s interesting.” File it and move on. Aren’t we all trying to “coexist” as the bumper sticker commands? I have enough improving to do on myself. Others can workout their own issues.
    But, that’s just my point of view. You’re free to avoid In-N-Out. The other folks in line will appreciate a shorter line to get their 4×4 Animal Style, weeklies, and Neapolitan shake. 😉

  70. @commProSuzi I didn’t say I stopped eating there and your comparison is flawed because you don’t know the whole story.
    I am not asking anyone to be offended for me either. But just for kicks try being part of a minority religion and enjoy the constant witnessing and proselytizing that comes with it in some places.
    It makes it easy to be irritated but that’s a different issue.

  71. CommProSuzi says:

    Flawed? Let’s not get defensive. My question was did the printing on the cup affect the flavor of the soda? You brought that up.
    It didn’t.
    You continued to patronize the restaurant
    ZERO drama (until now).
    It didn’t matter.

  72. JRHalloran says:

    What I find most interesting is how Chick-Fil-A didn’t have to change a thing at all in their policies. They never backed down from what they believed in, and to the best of my knowledge, they still support all of the same things they did before the crisis. 
    Talk about effective PR! 

    Most of the time, a company concedes to the whim of the public and has to change a policy or retract a statement. In this case, Chick-Fil-A actually came out stronger by sticking to their values.
    But most importantly, I think the only reason why they were able to come out of this situation stronger is because they’re a damn good restaurant with great food and service. If they were like McDonald’s or any other fast food restaurant, they definitely would’ve suffered a dry spell for a little while.

  73. JRHalloran says:

    So, the rankings (from best to worst) of fast food restaurants in my book are:  
    1.Chick-Fil-A 
    2. Five Guys 
    3. Pop Eye’s 
    4. Wendy’s 
    5. Burger King 
    6. McDonald’s 
    7. Taco Bell

    What about you guys?

  74. JRHalloran says:

    Chrisa_HickeyMikeSchafferShe makes a good point!  ^^

  75. belllindsay says:

    JRHalloran What!? No KFC??

  76. clay_morgan says:

    engagetony Thanks for tweeting my blog post. I’m grateful to you.

  77. ClayMorgan says:

    JRHalloran I’d lead with Five guys and Wendy’s. Then Chick-fil-A. Then Krystals/White Castle.

  78. clay_morgan says:

    toddlohenry SueOtten Thanks for tweeting out today’s blog post! I’m grateful!

  79. clay_morgan says:

    susancellura Thanks for tweeting out my post today. I appreciate it!

  80. clay_morgan says:

    JohnMTrader I appreciate you tweeting out my post today. Have a great one!

  81. ClayMorgan JRHalloran Five Guys isn’t *really* fast food, though.

  82. belllindsay says:

    jasonkonopinski ClayMorgan JRHalloran I can’t *believe* you included Taco H*ll in this list, JR!!! LOL

  83. belllindsay jasonkonopinski ClayMorgan JRHalloran Listen, LB, sometimes you just need a bean and cheese burrito.

  84. I haven’t spent any money with them because of what thyey said. Rieva HowieGoldfarb FranchiseKing ClayMorgan And, I stand by my opinion: religion and Business shouldn’t mix.

    JL

  85. CommProSuzi If they didn’t put Bible verses on their napkins we wouldn’t be talking about the fact that they put Bible verses on their napkins.

    I’m sure it tastes the same. I just don’t want to drink someone else’s beliefs with my soda-especially when they’re shoved down my throat.

    Why do people who are really into their religion have to broadcast it out and lay it on others?

    That’s what pisses me off.

    JL

  86. jasonkonopinski The lines that were around the block were filled with folks who held the same beliefs as Chik Fil A.

    The company had no brilliant strategy in place. 

    JL

  87. ginidietrich says:

    JRHalloran The only places I have ever been to on your list are #6 and #7.

  88. CommProSuzi Your comment comes across as being snarky, might not be the intent but when you ask if the verse affected the soda it is more challenging to see it as a “question.”

    My apologies for misinterpreting words that were unclear.

  89. CommProSuzi says:

    But we ARE talking about it. It’s part of their unique culture. I’d be sad to see them do away with it. They’re not franchised to my knowledge so they don’t have that audience to cater to. They’re privately owned & operated, so it’s their business. If I choose to eat there, I do so knowing that they’re devout. So what? I don’t see it as being a big deal. BUT, I will tell you this. It was brought to our attention at church. So they played to an audience they really wanted to attract to their business. How is that any different than say CARLS JR. using bikini models to hock their 6 dollar burgers? (Incidentally, Mr. Karcher, while he was still living, was opposed to this tactic, but was shouted down by his board. It wouldn’t have happened when he own it outright.) CARL’s wants to attract Heavy Fast Food Users (Males 18-24). Maybe INO wants to attract Christians. Let em. All their money spends the same way.
    INO also has an extensive secret menu that is never printed, but often talked about among its fans. But I don’t hear grousing over not knowing about being able to order Animal Style Fries.
    We’re not all going to turn on a dime re: our beliefs.

  90. CommProSuzi says:

    Joshua: I ask questions to gain clarity. I’m sorry you read it that way. I understand that Socrates was a jerky question asker, too.

  91. susancellura says:

    clay_morgan My pleasure! It was a good and provocative post!

  92. FranchiseKing Or they were hungry and wanted to get a sandwich, or maybe they were supporting the right of a business to exist legally and without interference.

    I disagree on your point that business and religion shouldn’t mix. 

    Chik-Fil-A does not proselytize to customers or require their patrons pray openly before eating. They aren’t shoving religion down anyone’s throats. If you disagree with a business’s political stances on issues, you aren’t forced to support them. You can go somewhere else. As a consumer, the choice is yours. 

    In & Out burgers are delicious — and no trip to California is complete unless I stop and get a double-double Animal style. Bible verses printed on their cups or wrappers don’t offend me, but I can’t say the same for Chik-Fil-A’s political contributions. That, however, is a discussion for another time and place.

  93. biggreenpen says:

    ClayMorganJRHalloran Krystals/White Castle = delectable delicacy 🙂

  94. SpinSucks says:

    jccarcamo I thought that Chick-fil-A case study was interesting. Hard not to get fired up about it, but a PR success ^gd

  95. JRHalloran says:

    belllindsayjasonkonopinskiClayMorgan You’re right. It honestly doesn’t even deserve a spot on here.

  96. JRHalloran says:

    ClayMorgan Yeah, Five Guys is very good. I just wish my meal didn’t cost $12 for me alone. But eh… that’s why it’s good, I know! If you want quality, you got to pay for it.

  97. JRHalloran says:

    ginidietrichJRHalloranI’m sorry to hear that. You’re missing out on life.   :-/

  98. JRHalloran says:

    belllindsayJRHalloranYou’re right! Slide her right under Pop Eye’s. (Pop Eye’s is still better in my opinion.)

  99. ClayMorgan says:

    biggreenpen ClayMorgan JRHalloran Indeed! My wife hates them though.

  100. SpinSucks says:

    SuzanneVara Thanks for sharing Suzanne! This post definitely got people talking! ^lp

  101. SuzanneVara says:

    SpinSucks it was a great follow up to the “crisis.” I had no idea their sales were so high. Hmh

  102. ginidietrich says:

    JRHalloran LOL! I’m a vegetarian and most fast-food restaurants don’t have choices for us.

  103. SpinSucks says:

    SuzanneVara Me neither! Very interesting. Millions of sociological studies could stem from the entire thing! ^lp

  104. jccarcamo says:

    SpinSucks I agree. You never know how you’re going to react when faced with a crisis, but they handled it well…even if they started it.

  105. […] Crisis Communications: How Chick-fil-A Weathered the Storm […]

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